On the third day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship, attention turned back to Group A, with Brazil taking on Chile and hosts Ecuador facing Colombia. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…
Brazil 0-0 Chile
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group A, 20 January 2017 (YouTube)
An ill-tempered and ugly game with six yellow cards and two reds (including one for a substitute), this was also a match of poor quality, though Chile deserve some praise for holding out for over 60 minutes with ten men. Brazil somewhat fortuitously hit the post towards the end of a very lacklustre first half, yet though they saw more of the ball, ultimately they did not do enough to convince that they deserved a win. La Rojita, whilst largely constrained, created a few chances; it will be interesting to see what they are capable of if they can improve their discipline, though they do find themselves in a rather competitive group.
The performance of David Neres (No. 11, São Paulo) was by no means exceptional but he nevertheless deserves highlighting for exhibiting one particular moment of intent – a quality that was often lacking in his side. In the 62nd minute, seemingly tired of the lethargy of those around him, he rampaged into the area from the right, evading at least two challenges before striking hard with his left boot, forcing a parry. The rebound by his team-mate was also stopped and then knocked off the line, but nevertheless, this was the sort of wake-up call an underperforming side needs; perhaps he can provide the catalyst in future games.
Felipe Vizeu (No. 9, Flamengo) was the forward who unsuccessfully attempted on the stretch to hook in the rebound to Neres’ shot. Earlier on at the end of the first half, he had also instinctively diverted the long-range strike of Caio Henrique (No. 7, Atlético Madrid) onto the post. Otherwise, as with his fellow attacking team-mates such as Lucas Paqueta (No. 10, Flamengo), Richarlison (No. 18, Fluminense) and Douglas Luiz (No. 8, Vasco da Gama), he was often lurking around the area but struggling to cause much discomfort. Lucas Paqueta’s most memorable contribution was a low shot from outside the area which drew a good save, Richarlison’s was a nifty turn before a weak cross, whereas Luiz, despite looking assured on the ball, skied over the bar more than once. All three men were withdrawn well before the final whistle.
A brief word for goalkeeper Caíque (No. 23, Vitória). Though he was mocked for a first-half air-kick (which was mostly likely the fault of the bobbly pitch), he otherwise looked alert, more than once anticipating trouble from long balls early on and rushing out his area to intercept. Though he will face sterner tests in the upcoming days, it can not pass completely without comment that he has so far kept two clean sheets.
Playing with ten men for an hour, Chile did not have too many opportunities to show what they can do and so it is more their rearguard that is deserving of praise. Yours truly has to confess that he did not notice one particular defender being conspicuously more integral than any of the others, but two South American football observers singled out certain individuals. Indeed, Victor Grao praised Canada-born left-back Cristián Gutiérrez (No. 4, Colo Colo), while Tom Webber was taken by centre-back Francisco Sierralta (No. 13, Palestino, on loan from Granada, Spain). Although Brazil did not make the most of their one-man advantage and shots did not rain down upon the Chilean goal, goalkeeper Gonzalo Collao (No. 1, Universidad de Chile) nevertheless also certainly played his part in keeping a clean sheet. Indeed, his most impressive moment came in the 62nd minute when he first saved Neres’ strike and then stretched to get a glove on Vizeu’s rebound; the ball subsequently went up in the air and then dipped goalwards but Sierralta was on hand to clear.
From an attacking perspective, though Chile were hindered by the man-disadvantage, they did show a few glimpses of what they can do in the final third. Indeed, the man who received the red card, Jeisson Vargas (No. 10, Estudiantes de La Plata, Argentina, on loan from Bologna, Italy), had actually looked like one of their leading threats, particularly in the fifth minute when he struck a well-hit free-kick from a difficult position on the left that Caíque had to tip over. Ignacio Jara (No. 15, Cobreloa) was another one who had looked lively yet left the field early, in his case substituted off at half time. He was responsible for a 29th-minute curling cross from the right with his left boot that narrowly missed the heads of those who leapt for it and ultimately had to be clawed out for a corner by Caíque, lest it creep past him into the goal. Three minutes later, he created a better opportunity when his dinked ball into the area was headed weakly by a defender, falling kindly to Gabriel Suazo (No. 8, Colo Colo); he instinctively hooked an attempt, though it rose a couple of yards over the bar.
In the second half, forward forays were rare but two of slight interest did occur, with Richard Paredes (No. 9, Palestino) involved in both. The first, after 70 minutes, saw him burst from the halfway line into the left side of the area; it seemed as if Lucas Paqueta may have brought him down but the Chilean was immediately back on his feet and turned with half a sight of goal to hit a rasping, if rather wild, shot which ultimately went well wide of the target. The second chance occurred just three minutes later when he met a long, diagonal ball into the area, though his header was rather tame and caught easily by Caíque.
Overall the match was far from a classic and one wonders what kind of attacking threat Chile will pose with 11 men (including Vargas when he returns from suspension). They did show glimpses of potential and if they take a page out of the book of Carlos Lobos (No. 21, Universidad Católica) – whose 50th-minute strike from the halfway line only went a few yards over the bar – they could turn out to be well worth tuning in for.
Ecuador 4-3 Colombia
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group A, 20 January 2017 (YouTube)
The locals who came early to the Estadio Olímpico de Riobamba were rewarded for their perseverance through the preceding drab affair with this goal-glut in which their compatriots dramatically gained their first win. The match was a very fluid, end-to-end encounter, containing enough action for at least four matches, so let’s stick with the goals for now:
Colombia took the lead after 6 minutes when Damir Ceter spectacularly struck home from just outside the area. Subsequently, the hosts had their chances but it was Jorge Obregón who got the second goal of the game, slotting into an open goal after goalkeeper José Cevallos had denied Ceter. However, shortly afterwards, the comeback began when, in the 41st minute, Pervis Estupiñán was on hand in the area to strike and thus halve the deficit. Just seven minutes after the restart, Ecuador were on level terms after a ball that looped up in the air following a corner came down to be volleyed in with controlled aplomb by Joel Quintero. Four minutes later, the hosts then temporarily achieved the scoreline reversal by going ahead via a Bryan Cabezas spot-kick, following a completely unnecessary foul by goalkeeper Manuel Arias. However, Colombia did not entirely succumb to the forces of fatalism as, in the 74th minute, they were level again when, at the second attempt, substitute Ever Valencia tapped in a wicked low cross at the back post. One would have thought that the two teams would settle for three goals apiece but in the closing minutes Ecuador, buoyed by their substitutes, ramped up their efforts for a winner. They got their reward in the 92nd minute when two of their fresher players combined to nab a memorable victory: Wilter Ayoví crossed in from the inside-right for Jordy Caicedo to head in off the post. Cue bedlam in Riobamba.
Four goals scored but all by different players and not one individual could say they played a strong role in more than one of them. Thus, though it feels that there were many candidates for Man of the Match, not one had a clear claim.
Nevertheless, plenty impressed and one who particularly caught the eye – and not just for his exceptional name – was Pervis Estupiñán (No. 6, Granada, Spain). Nominally a left-back, given his strength and skill on the ball, an advanced position further up the pitch – where he was often found in this match – may prove to be his true calling. Indeed, with his roams, he drew some free-kicks, one of which he took himself early on; this was a good effort, dipping and swerving not too far wide of the past. Deserves credit for starting the fightback in the 41st minute with a strong left-footed strike that was too much for goalkeper Arias. He’s another player at this tournament with international pedigree in the family – his uncle, Jorge Guagua, has over 60 caps for La Tri.
Although he was only on the pitch for about 25 minutes, Wilter Ayoví (No. 8, Independiente Del Valle) played a significant role in leading the charge for the fourth goal. Indeed, he had chances to score, such as in the 77th minute when he struck across goal and came within a whisker of the far post – at least two other shots were either parried out or went narrowly wide. However, it seemed as if he was going to leave the match a very frustrated – and perhaps slightly haunted – man as, in stoppage-time, he side-footed a cut-back wide of a largely unguarded net. Perhaps the ball came to him too quickly but he nevertheless made up for this barely 30 seconds later when he crossed in for the winning goal.
From the off, his club team-mate Washington Corozo (No. 7, Independiente Del Valle) was also never too far away from the final third. His most significant contribution was the short pass for Estupiñán’s goal, but he could have had another assist had Ayoví converted his cross-goal effort. He was involved in many moves and had a shot on target in the last ten minutes; his best chance was way back in the 7th minute when he latched onto a bouncing forward pass, hooked it over the goalkeeper but, unfortunately for him, also over the bar.
The player who played this ball upfield into Corozo’s stride was Jordan Sierra (No. 15, Delfin), a man who was given a start after coming on as a substitute in Ecuador’s first game. As with that match against Brazil, here he also tried his luck from range, most notably in the 45th minute when, from over 40 yards out, his dipping strike ended up just a yard or two over the bar. Other teams take heed: do not give this man a wide berth.
Otherwise, some quick praise for the following: Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec) for again putting in some dangerous set-pieces, most notably the one that caused the confusion which led to the second Ecuador goal, volleyed in with admirable composure by centre-back Joel Quintero (No. 3, Emelec). Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy), for keeping his cool to slot home the penalty for 3-2, as well as continuing from the first match his tendency to be a frequent nuisance to defenders and being able to get into good positions. Herlin Lino (No. 9, Barcelona SC, Ecuador) for robbing a defender and then drawing the – admittedly stupid – foul from goalkeeper Arias to win the penalty, as well as for putting in a fine low cross for Cabezas early on. Lastly, credit to Jordy Caicedo (No. 19, Universidad Católica, Ecuador) for showing great mental character and belief; having been dropped after the first game, he came on as a substitute in the 87th minute and 5 minutes later he got onto the end of Ayoví’s cross to head home for a memorable win.
Though their defence and their – possibly ill, if not injured, goalkeeper – did not come out of this with flying colours, some of Colombia’s attack certainly impressed, particularly in the first half.
Damir Ceter (No. 9, Santa Fe), for one, as he repaid some of the faith his manager showed by starting him here, having come on as a goalscoring substitute in their previous match with Paraguay. Indeed, he left many with open mouths when he became the first name on the scoresheet with a fantastic 6th-minute golazo following a knock-down. He could well have scored again when he dispossessed a defender and charged into the area, but ultimately his heavy touch caused him to overrun the ball. However, though the opposition goalkeeper dispossessed Ceter, the ball nevertheless fell to Jorge Obregón (No. 19, Unión Magdalena), who did well to strike into the inviting net to double Colombia’s lead.
Juan ‘El Cucho’ Hernández (No. 10, América de Cali, on loan from Granada, Spain) again showed glimpses of why he’s already been snapped up by a European side noted for their intrepid scouting. He set up Ceter’s goal with his chest and should probably have scored himself in the 13th minute when he was played through, but his shot was too close to the goalkeeper.
Otherwise, brief praise for Kevin Balanta (No. 8, Deportivo Cali), who played Hernández in for his main opportunity, though a second yellow of the tournament means he misses the next game. Also, a simple note to state that whilst it was a great low ball to the back post that found Ever Valencia (No. 13, Atlético Bucaramanga) to make it 3-3, the goalscorer shouldn’t really have needed two bites at the cherry to do so.
To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be Peru vs Bolivia and Argentina vs Uruguay from Group B – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com.